Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption is clearly GTA in a Wild West jacket, but who are we to not count that as a major positive point! We’ve always dreamt of being the hero in one of those many classic westerns and Rockstar has now made that possible.
You start your adventure in the train as Marston, a very credible and interesting character, listening to fellow travellers who perfectly get you into the atmosphere. Quickly you find out where you are and that the period in which you’ll be able to freely play is one where the values and customs of cowboys are slowly but steadily mixed with technological progress like the first car and a couple of lunatics who try to get off the ground with wings.
Not long after that you’ve been shot, rescued, have made the first friends and enemies, learnt how to ride a horse, manage cattle, and shoot holes in men and animals through bullet-time (here called “Dead Eye”)… Up to you the choice to follow the good (and long) storyline, have fun with minigames like poker or stabbing a knife on a table between your fingers, or do all kinds of side missions and special challenges. These assignments vary from searching flowers to finding lost children, taking back a coach, shooting birds from a moving train, searching for treasures or saving someone from the gallows. While on the way to do those things you can also get confronted with all kinds of dangerous animals like wolves, snakes, pumas and even bears and buffalos. Shoot, skin and sell the parts!
The good news is that it’s very easy to combine the storyline with stuff on the side at your own pace and that you’ll not have to replay things as much as in GTA IV. Also you don’t have to keep your relations happy. Hurray! Completing missions will make you more famous and you get rated on honorability which delivers all kinds of (dis)advantages. Inhabitants will stay out of your way if you’re a badass and the law will have no problem going after you if that’s the case. If you’ve helped people, they’ll have no problem welcoming you with open arms and give you a discount in the local store.
How famous you are influences the amount of times you’re challenged to duels where the Dead Eye gameplay is central. Be careful with how you manage this as it takes quite a lot to get the “Wanted” state off your head when you’ve put too many people under the ground.
The shooting itself is quite nice, you can swiftly do it while riding a horse and those that have problems aiming have a lock-on aid. You can even select certain parts of your opponents: the head for instance for a quick kill, or a knee cap to capture someone alive. Also cool is that you can shoot pistols out of the hands of opponents which delivers extra respect.
Another important piece of equipment is of course the lasso. Perfect to drag cowboys who smell out of their mouth to the sheriff, but you can also capture horses with it and train them. No, no whispering involved here but just a minigame. These horses are also beautifully animated and very varied both in looks and features so it’s worthwhile to go look for rare and fast ones.
The only thing I found annoying is that it happened a bit all too often that you accidentally hit someone with your horse or coach during missions – the controls aren’t so tight – and this results in a failed mission so you’ll have to start again from scratch. I also found it regrettable that your character can only switch between walking, running and sprinting whereby the animations aren’t that great and you get thrown out of the experience for a second. However, that’s nitpicking as the sound, the music, the voices and graphics are some of the best we’ve seen in a long time!
If after a day of play in singleplayer – this really is a long game – you’re longing for more then you can get going in the multiplayer with all kinds of modes where you can play in team or against each other. A bit like in the latest GTA you start with 15 friends in the world and get to do all kinds of crazy stuff and form a posse. You can also completely build your character by gaining experience and get access to new weapons, better and faster horses and more respect. One big playground for cowboys and indians!
If you want to start up a seperate multiplayer game then you can choose between deathmatch (with or without teams) and some sort of Capture-the-Flag where the flag has been replaced by a bag of gold. Although we had hoped for some more realism here, these modes are actually only a bonus to the Free Roam mode which on itself is already a bonus to the fantastic campaign.
The conclusion is simple: Red Dead Redemption has kept all the good aspects of GTA IV, added with a fantastically deep and atmospheric Wild West setting, an epic and credible story, and finished with a shitload of extra possibilities and a presentation that gets equalled by only few games. A must-have for everyone!